Sometimes, as a vegan, it's hard to resist the strong sense of isolation, of being enveloped and insulated within an alien, meat-eating, animal-profiteering culture. It's hard, in the face of the billion jagged reminders every day of the egregious ways animals are used and abused, to remain hopeful about the broader picture.
The web is an invaluable tool in this regard, of course. By reaching out to others in the blogosphere, joining online groups and creating our own community - with all its fissures and patched imperfections - we remind ourselves daily that we are not alone. We are not crazy. And, most of all, we are not wrong.
This is an emotional sanctuary to which I return when I'm overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. But it is so much the sweeter when you find someone in real life who is also doing the work, living the life and promoting compassionate values. So, as I was noodling around the web earlier, I came across a post on Animals Not Ingredients called 'Today I Met My First Vegan' and it piqued my curiosity. The writer expresses her appreciation of meeting another vegan randomly in a health food shop, and of being able to make a connection. And I was struck by how uncommon that is, or at least how uncommon it used to be. And then I started to think about the ways in which I've noticed that veganism is becoming more mainstream. And I realized that I do not necessarily believe that it's just a matter of me noticing it more now. Here's why....
I grew up - in the 80s - in a small market town in south-west England. It's right smack-bang in the middle of farming country, where the local population has lived off the land and raised animals since before Noah was a young lad. The ways were old-fashioned, the values even more so: there was a respect for the land and a scepticism and distrust of new-fangled ideas and concepts.
Veganism - nor yet even vegetarianism - was a concept that would not have been well received.
Fast forward to today. My mother, who still lives in this area, IMed me today to report on her visit to a new little eaterie that has sprung up in the town: The Owl Cafe. It is vegan. Pure. Vegan. Food. With a healthy dose of AR on the side, by the sound of it. Indeed, from the website you can get a taste of their philosophy as the chef says
My food you can cry for - die for. You will eat like you won’t believe. Yes I’m a chef, so therefore arrogant; I’m good, but I have an advantage - I simplify my cooking by not using bits of dead animal.
You have to love that!
Furthermore, on a noodling trip around the web a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a B&B in a neighbouring town which explicitly tries to attract the veg*n crowd: The Limetree Nursery. I was so excited that I actually contacted the owner to say how pleased I was - from 4000 miles away on the other side of 'The Pond' - to know that they existed. Such a B&B would never have survived back when I was growing up.
So perhaps this is all evidence, in a very concrete way, that times are changing. That it is no longer such a radical, ultra-far-left, fringe position to actually want to be consciously respectful of the needs and rights of the other creatures with whom we share this experience called life.
Perhaps, little by little, hope grows.
What's happening in your area to give you hope?
Let me know and stay vegan, friends! :)